UK says tanker seizure shows Iran choosing ‘dangerous path’

As Iranian officials begin probe into the seized tanker, London tells UK ships to avoid Strait of Hormuz.

US to launch plan for ‘free passage’ of ships in Iran’s waterway.

The United Kingdom has told all British ships to avoid using the Strait of Hormuz for an “interim period” after Iran seized a UK-flagged tanker.

The British government on Saturday also summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in London over the incident, shortly after Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, said the seizure showed “worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour”.

“Our reaction will be considered but robust,” Hunt wrote on Twitter, adding that the UK “will ensure the safety of our shipping”.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Friday it seized the Stena Imperoa, a UK-flagged, Swedish-owned vessel, for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.

Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

The British owner of a second tanker, the Liberian-flagged Mesdar, said it had been temporarily boarded by armed personnel, but was free to leave and that all crew were “safe and well”.

The incidents came hours after a court in Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago in an operation aided by British Royal Marines on allegations of breaching European Union sanctions against Syria.

British cabinet minister James Brokenshire called the tanker’s seizure “completely intolerable” but added that London was still seeking to establish diplomatic connections with Tehran over the incident.

“The actions of the Iranians is completely unacceptable. It is so important that we maintain this free navigation through the Gulf,” the housing secretary told BBC radio.

“We want to see this matter resolved in a diplomatic way. The Iranians need to release this vessel as quickly as possible.”

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from London, said the effect of the seizures on Britain’s oil industry was still not clear

“The knock-on effect of this on British shipping [or] on the economy of the oil industry is yet to be seen,” adding that the UK hopes the issue will be resolved soon.

Referring to the Iranian tanker in Gibraltar, Barker said that while Hunt “implied it was not as simple as letting the Grace 1 go, hoping the Iranian follow suit, he [Hunt] said he hoped it would not impact British shipping further.”

US to launch plan for ‘free passage’ of ships in Iran’s waterway.

Strait of HORMUZ

US official says the new initiative will seek to ensure ‘free, open passage’ for ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The United States is concerned that a “miscalculation” by Iran could cause an “unintended conflict” in the Gulf, as it prepares to launch a new surveillance and intelligence initiative with its allies to ensure “free and open passage” for ships.

“We are starting a concept called Sentinel in which we will have a series of countries engaged to preserve the free and open passage of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf,” US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said at the Aspen Security Forum on Saturday.

The US has had discussions with NATO allies, some “partners in the Gulf” and others to join the effort to keep the “vital waterway” open, said Rood, adding that the new operation would “come into being over the coming days and weeks”.